October 8, 2009 at 9:23 a.m.

District realizing significant savings through energy conservation projects

District realizing significant savings through energy conservation projects
District realizing significant savings through energy conservation projects

Tim Burton didn't waste time looking for ways to conserve energy in his new position with the Chisago Lakes School District, and those conservation efforts have now reached into every aspect of daily life in the schools.

Burton, who has been the district's Director of Buildings and Grounds since 2006, said he is certainly not an "energy guru," but does spend extensive time researching ways to save the district money in energy costs.

"I do think energy conservation falls under my job title, but the success of our district's energy conservation program depends on everyone's participation," Burton said.

His first project was to switch the district's 250 exit signs from fluorescent to LEC lights. The district received an Xcel Energy rebate which offset the costs, resulting in an initial cost of $21,412.

The initial investment will be recovered in about three years of operation, Burton said. Each of the old signs cost more than $37 a year to operate; the new signs will cost $.11 each annually.

Burton estimates an annual savings of $9,329 through the life of the signs, totalling $279,881 in 30 years of operation. The project also saves 87,511 kWh annually in energy reductions.

The sign color was also changed, because research shows when smoke is present, green is more visible than red, Burton added.

Vending machines, with the exception of those in the commons at Chisago Lakes High School, were all equipped with sensors starting in 2006.

The sensors, called VendingMiser, powers down the machines when an area is vacant for longer than 15 minutes. The machines are automatically re-powered at intervals between one and three hours, depending on the ambient temperature.

Energy costs to run the machines have been reduced by 40 percent, saving the district $2,685 annually. The sensors are paid for after the first 16 months of use. It also saves nearly 25,000 kWh annually.

All of the district's fluorescent lamps were replaced with lower wattage lamps. The new lamps are closer to a natural daylight color, Burton said, making it a better option for school use.

The project was completed in-house by district custodial staff, with a projected annual savings of $23,649 and a project cost of $21,342.

Burton said the lights are brighter, despite the lower wattage, because they have a higher calvin temperature.

"We did light level tests at the middle school, and even with the reduction in wattage, there was increased light readings. We even delamped some of the fixtures - installing only three lamps in a four-outlet fixture. We haven't even figured in those cost savings," he said.

Lights in the district's gymnasiums and the pool were also changed to lower energy costs and provide better light quality for those areas. Burton estimates the switch will save the district $28,600 a year.

The lighting retrofit has increased safety at the pool as well. Aquatics Director Ellen Heath said the new lighting enables staff to see across the pool to the bottom of the deep end, something that wasn't possible before.

Another project at the pool was to install new boilers to heat the water, rather than pipe steam from the high school boiler room, across the pool roof, and down into the building.

Burton said the project cost $13,039, but will save at least $5,000 a year in energy costs.

Chisago Lakes Middle School has been raising money since last year to complete an energy project at that school.

"Project Independence" will raise funds to install 57 solar panels on top of the school. This Saturday, a 5K fun run/walk Solar Saunter will be the latest fundraiser for the project. Participants can still register the morning of the walk at Ki Chi Saga Park.

The goal is to have the $90,000 project completely funded by January, using grant money and fundraising projects.

Burton's latest project is a recommissioning study throughout the district.

An outside company will take up to six months studying building operations, identifying energy-saving opportunities.

"They will look at everything, motors, our HVAC equipment, lighting," Burton said. "They will really be looking at how things function together and if it's as efficient as it should be."

Burton said the study will begin at the middle school this fall. The district will qualify for an Xcel Energy rebate to fund 75 percent of the associated costs.

Other minor projects have been geared toward changing people's habits. Turning lights and computers off when classrooms are empty, keeping the thermostats at 69 degrees, and reducing the number of small appliances used.

"Everyone's getting a little more aware," Burton said. "I'm trying to get out information that shows them what they're doing does save money, and trying to get teachers to pass on to their students."

Burton said is sending out monthly "fun facts" to staff, relating to energy conservation. He may add a monthly trivia challenge to make it more fun.

The district adopted green energy guidelines in Dec. 2008 and the school board recently approved a district energy goal.

Burton made a presentation to the board on district energy projects at the Oct. 6 board meeting.

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